This is a custom bass trombone built in Southern California by one of the world's premier brass makers - Kanstul Musical Instruments. It's closely related to the 1662, which is the archetype for this design. This 1670 is a variation that was built for the great studio trombonist George Roberts, who endorsed this instrument. For pictures of George, video, and a transcription of an excellent interview, click here. From the Trombone Page of the World:
George Roberts, "Mr. Bass Trombone" is one of the most beloved personalities in the music world. The man whose sound we so easily recognize in movies, records and television, is also the man who virtually single-handedly brought the Bass Trombone from its last low trombone status, to the forefront as a solo instrument which could stand alone and sound wonderful.
This Kanstul 1670 is one of the very few single valve bass trombones in production today, and it has several features that make it a very playable instrument even for the busiest jobbing player. Its distinguishing feature is the tuning mechanism located in the hand slide, which allows for a very sleek conical bell section. Most of the dimensions are what you'd expect: .562" bore, .593" rotor, 9.5" bell.
This instrument came about during early production of the Kanstul 1662 trombone. I/Steve loved how easily the Kanstul played and how light it was. I said to Zig Kanstul, "I bet George Roberts would love this horn if you made a single valve version." Zig and George were friends going back to the days of the F.E. Olds Company, and Zig decided to build a couple of single valve bass trombones, and then invited George to visit and play them. When George arrived, he took one look at the trombone sitting on the desk and exclaimed, "That's exactly what I've been looking for." The next day George resigned from his endorsement of a competing brand of trombones, and enlisted as a Kanstul artist.
The bass trombone realist knows that one can't easily play every piece of music on a single valve bass trombone. If you try studying bass trombone in a classical environment, you'll know that many of the solos and technical studies are much easier with two valves. But truly, you usually only need one. If you've got fairly long arms, you can stretch to play the low C with no problem. And the B natural, the one problem note, can be managed. The Kanstul F attachment has a very long crook to pull out to E, enabling an easy low B natural in flat seventh position. Also included is an E-pull slide stop, so you can quickly pull to E without worrying you'll take it right off. It really works. One time I was surprised by a low B while sight reading on a quartet job, but I pulled to E during a two-beat rest. It's that fast.
The other way is just to lip down to low B. Here's a tip I learned from George, who said, "What are they writing now that they weren't writing then?" (Well, they're writing a few crazy things, but mostly it's the same stuff.) George's main technique is to play a low B on one valve, press the trigger and play it in flat 3rd position like a low Eb, but then lip it down to B. You may be surprised that with a bit of practice, the low B will pop right out. (Jeff Reynolds also encourages practicing these notes, which he calls fractitional tones.) For most of us, this low B technique hasn't quite the full tone and volume of the B played with the F slide pulled to E, or one played with double valves. But George explained that in a fast passage, the listener hears mostly the huff of the accent, and that's most important. If you need to lay into a forte low B whole note, you'll want to take evasive action, but for an eighth note run, this false tone technique works just fine. You can also play the low C in flat second position, and the low Db in first position using this same technique. Not only will you have some creative alternate fingerings, you'll find that your low range improves on the "real positions", and you'll be able to play a convincing low C a little bit sharper than very flat seventh position you would normally aspire to reach. I've used this technique for the low B on recordings and shows, and no one ever was the wiser. George says it like this:
I love playing in Bb/F because that's easy to tune and leave set up that way. I had a habit, for fifty years, of scanning a chart and looking ahead. If I saw a wide-open low B natural sitting there, a whole note, then I would pull to E. If I had to play it in E, then I would do so. I looked for B naturals. If it was in eighth notes, I would lip it down because you'll feel the note but you won't hear it. You know, that's really true - you didn't really hear that B but you felt it. That's the way I played for fifty years. I could always catch the low C out in flat seven.
A bit of trivia about playing the single valve bass trombone is that since most bass trombones made before 1950 or so only had a single valve, most music written or arranged before 1950 was written for a single valve bass. The best arrangers of the day knew the limitations of the instrument, and wrote accordingly. For example, if a low B natural was written, the best arrangers wrote a rest before it, allowing you time to pull the F attachment to E. All those old Broadway shows like West Side Story, Oklahoma, Music Man and many others were written before double valves came into vogue. What this means to the working bass trombonist is that you'll do fine in most every symphony and pit orchestra gig with a single valve instrument. For the modern big band arrangements, two valves are the norm, and are certainly helpful, but for everything else, light weight and simplicity are your friends.
George plays a Kanstul 1670 with a yellow brass bell and the standard nickel slide. He uses the GR2 leadpipe, a version of a Burt Herrick design, and a Kanstul GR mouthpiece, and he regards this as his best instrument ever.
Since numerous options are available on this Kanstul, we'll suggest that if you like a snappy instrument with a light response, a velvety vintage sound, and a stability of tone at all dynamics, order the standard yellow brass bell version. If you like a hotter sound with more malleability and more of a bark when you push it, consider the bronze bell. If you prefer a broader, more modern orchestral sound with more weight and more distinctive slotting, ask for the heavier red brass bell, and maybe a brass slide to match. The red brass unsoldered rim bell may be the closest to an unbuffed Conn bell and those seen on some of the custom Minick trombones. Though these Kanstul trombones are very consistent, we can play test some of the available parts here if you need assistance, and we'll write or ring you back with a review.
If you have a wider neck, ask for the wide hand slide, as seen on the 1662I. This slide broadens the tone a bit, and also adds a small amount of weight.
Included: Protec 309 case, three .562" mouthpipes, Kanstul mouthpiece
Standard model: Lightweight .020" brass bell and nickel hand slide. We also occasionally stock the bronze bell.
Kanstul hand slides are normally built with brass cork barrels. We've been able to source the materials to have them built with nickel cork barrels. To me, this more dense metal makes the horn feel centered and more efficient. These are standard now on Kanstul trombones we order.